Jayne Kennedy is an actress, model, and television personality who rose to fame for being the first African-American woman to be crowned Miss Ohio. She was also the first African-American to appear on the cover of Playboy magazine when she did so in the July 1981 issue to promote the American sports drama film, Body and Soul. Kennedy was undoubtedly a big deal in her day as her face was once insured for $1 million.
A living legend who paved the way for many black women to explore career opportunities in showbiz and entertainment, Jayne is also a sports broadcaster, writer, corporate spokeswoman, public speaker, and producer.
While her days in front of the camera may have reduced, Kennedy has remained relevant with her philanthropic gestures. Her life now mostly revolves around her husband Bill Overton and four children: Cheyenne, Savannah Re, Kopper Joi, and Zaire Ollyea.
The 70-Year Old Was Born In Washington, D.C. But Raised In Wickliffe, Ohio
Although Jayne Kennedy considers herself a native of Wickliffe, Ohio, and rightly so; it was in Washington D.C. that she was born. You wouldn’t search hard to find that she was born to Herbert and Virginia Harrison on the 27th of October 1951. Jayne isn’t the only child of her parents, it is known that she has five siblings but much isn’t known about them as they are not public figures.
Anyone with half an eye shouldn’t be told that the actress is of African American persuasion. She spent most of her early life in Wickliffe, Ohio, where she attended a public high school named after the town – Wickliffe High School. Jayne was an active student: a member of the National Honor Society, and also a cheerleader. The fact that she was thrice elected to serve as the president of her class in high school indicates that she was a popular kid.
Jayne is enlightened and articulate but nothing indicates she is college-educated. Reports have it that she aspired to become a politician and considered the first black woman elected to the United States Congress, Shirley Chisholm, a role model. But then, her beauty lured her into pageantry and it became the path that defined who and what she has become.
Jayne Kennedy’s Career Journey Began In 1970 When She Was Crowned Miss Ohio
The first significant push that Jayne got to build a career in showbiz and entertainment came around the time she graduated from high school. She took part in the Miss Ohio USA competition and emerged the winner, making history as the first African American woman to win the title.
Winning the Miss Ohio contest automatically earned her the right to represent the state in the Miss USA pageant. She did and was one of the top ten semi-finalists. All the exposure she got from these propelled her to pursue a career in modeling and other areas of showbiz.
Jayne Kennedy’s exploits in Hollywood as an entertainer began in 1971 when she performed as a dancer on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, a sketch comedy series that aired from January 1968 to March 1973. She later toured and performed with Bob Hope in countries like Cuba, Vietnam, Japan, Spain, and Thailand.
This paved the way for her to feature as a singer and dancer on The Dean Martin Show. In the years that followed, she guest-starred on multiple television shows and films.
In all, she is not only an actress and model but also a dancer, singer, TV personality, talk show host, broadcaster, author, infomercial host, corporate spokeswoman, lecturer, and exercise guru.
Has She Retired From Acting?
Considering her age, and the fact that it has been a long time since Jayne portrayed a character in a movie or television production, it is not hard to see why people wonder if she has retired from acting. If we are not mistaken, the last time she worked as an actress was in the 1993 horror thriller written and directed by David A. Prior, Night Trap. Before that, she played Mary Rodger in the “Mary Heartless” episode of Throb, a TV sitcom series created by Fredi Towbin.
Be that as it may, Jayne Kennedy never announced that she was quitting acting, neither has she retired. Although not as often as she use to, she remains active in Hollywood and is currently part of a project titled The First Lady of Motown: The Claudette Robinson Story. The documentary, as of January 2022, is in the post-production stage. So while age is no longer on the side of the actress, she is yet to retire.
How Many Times Has Jayne Kennedy Been Married?
The former model and actress has had a fulfilling love life almost as much as she has enjoyed an accomplished career. Even though she has faced some disappointments in her private life, Jayne has a lot to be thankful for. She has been married twice: first to Leon Kennedy and then to Bill Overton.
Meet Her First Husband Leon Kennedy
- Full Name: Leon Isaac Kennedy
- Date of Birth: 1st of January 1949
- Age: 73 Years Old
- Place of Birth: Cleveland, Ohio
- Occupation: disc jockey, actor, producer, and writer
Like his ex-wife, Leon Isaac Kennedy is a multi-talented entertainer known for his works as a disc jockey, actor, producer, and writer. Leon was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on the 1st of January 1949. Reports have it that his career began as a nightclub promoter and disc jockey.
In a quest to get better opportunities as an entertainer, he moved to Los Angeles, California, sometime in June 1971 and soon landed a job as a DJ on a radio station. While we worked for the station, he also coordinated a variety show and it was only a matter of time before he landed his first acting job.
Leon debuted as an actor in 1972 when he portrayed Bobby Williams in Hammer, an action-crime, drama film written by Charles Eric Johnson and directed by Bruce D. Clark. In the years that followed, he was seen in multiple productions like The All-American Boy, Get Christie Love! Mean Johnny Barrows, To Kill a Cop, and Fighting Mad. Thus far, he has no fewer than 23 credits to his name as an actor and his most recent work had him voice Det. Jimmy Williams in New York Ninja, a 2021 action, crime-thriller.
His most popular acting role are that of Leon Johnson in Body and Soul, Too Sweet Gordone in Penitentiary II, and its sequel Penitentiary III, and Jackson in Lone Wolf McQuade. Although not as much as acting, Leon has several works to his name as a writer and producer. He is credited as a writer for Knights of the City, Big Time, and Body and Soul.
Apart from the latter, he was involved in the production of the rest. Other projects he has produced include Fighting Mad, Penitentiary, Penitentiary III, The Brady Keys Jr. Story, The Cosmic Secret, and most recently, The Observers.
Jayne and Leon Got Married In 1971 and Divorced in 1982
Jayne Kennedy met Leon Isaac Kennedy a year after she graduated from high school. They fell head over heels for each other and wasted no time in getting married; this was sometime in 1970. Their respective careers picked up in the years that followed, making them one of the first black power couples in Hollywood.
Their marriage faced a few challenges along the way, including a sex tape scandal that derailed her career in the 1980s. The sex tape featuring Jayne and Leon reportedly got into the wrong hands during a robbery and was leaked.
About a decade into their marriage, sometime in October 1981, it emerged that the two had filed for divorce. In a joint statement, they cited long periods of separation because of their busy schedules as the reason for their decision to part ways.
Adding that the divorce is in their best interest, they affirmed that they are still good friends. The divorce was finalized in 1982. They didn’t have any children together and Leon would later marry Lolita Armbrister in 1995 and then his current wife Maureen LaVette in 2005.
Bill Overton Has Been Jayne Kennedy’s Husband for Over 36 Years
- Full Name: William Overton
- Date of Birth: 26th of February 1947
- Age: 75 Years Old
- Place of Birth: Boston, Massachusetts
- Occupation: Actor, Writer, and Producer
Bill Overton named William Overton at birth is the current husband of Jayne Kennedy. Born in Boston, Massachusetts on the 26th of February 1947, Bill also works in the entertainment industry. He is mostly known as an actor but is a bit of a writer and producer as well. To the best of our knowledge, Bill made his acting debut as J.J. Blake in a 1972 television movie titled Footsteps.
The following year, he was seen as Randy Marlowe in “The Case of the Cagey Cager” episode of The New Perry Manson. This was followed by his first major role in 1974 as Cal Dakin in 13 episodes of the TV series, Firehouse.
He would go on to portray multiple characters in feature films, television series, and TV movies. Nonetheless, the role that has defined his career include Femi in 1975’s Lord Shango and Kingsley in The Astral Factor. His most recent acting role, if we are not mistaken, was as Norman Kane in On the Edge, a 2002 action film written by Linda Williamson and directed by Fred Williamson. This does not mean Bill has retired. He produced Payment Received, a horror film written and directed by J. Writer Ward in 2019. His only credited work as a writer is the “Three on a Mismatch” episode of Benson, a television series that aired from 1979 to 1986.
Jayne Kennedy and Bill Overton Got Married In 1985 and Are Parents to Four Grown Daughters
It was acting that brought Jayne Kennedy and Bill Overton together. It is said that they met on the set of the 1977 television movie, Cover Girls. Jayne starred as Monique Lawrence in the movie while Bill played a small part as a football player. They fell in love even though Jayne was still married to her first husband, Leon Isaac Kennedy. According to some reports, the relationship contributed to the end of Jayne’s first marriage.
A few years after Jayne and Leon finalized their divorce, precisely on the 26th of May 1985, the actress got married to Bill Overton with whom she had three daughters. The couple share four daughters as Bill’s first marriage to Kathleen Bradley, who interestingly was also a beauty queen from Ohio, produced a girl child named Cheyenne Maree Overton. She was born on the 14th of September 1983.
The kids Jayne and Bill had together are Savannah Ré, Kopper Joi, and Zaire Ollyea. They were born on the 20th of November 1985, 17th of May 1989, and 15th of September 1995, respectively. Jayne has a good relationship with all of her daughters, including Cheyenne. The oldest of Jayne and Bill’s biological daughters, Savannah Ré Overton, is a media scholar, diversity consultant, and Arts in Education advocate. Her immediate younger sister is a blogger and the youngest, Zaire, graduated from The University of Southern California (USC). The sisters are working with their mother on a social project they tagged It’s A Mother Daughter Thing.